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Walking solo and staying in hotels - share your experience of solitude

GlennJ

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Planned Camino: Portuguese (April-May 2024)
I will be doing my first Camino solo from Porto (Coastal/Litoral + Spiritual Variente) next April and plan to stay in private accommodation, hoping the solitude will enable me to connect more deeply with my spiritual self and with God.

To quote John Brierley: “… the basic counsel is to go on foot, alone. The extended period of silence will open up space to reflect on your life and its direction. Go alone and you may find that you are never alone and that may prove a pivotal turning point.”

I would love to hear the experiences of anyone else who has done the Camino solo in this way, how you managed day-after-day in quiet solitude.
 
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to stay in private accommodation, hoping the solitude will enable me to connect more deeply with my spiritual self and with God.
Quiet solitude might be hard to find. If this is what you want, a retreat or a remote location might be what you need. If you are really determined to walk a camino and seek solitude then a quieter camino might be better e.g. the Levante, the Lana or the Olvidado routes. If you follow a well-trodden path such as the Portugués, you will meet others who will expect you to engage with them.
 
I'm not religious, but I think what you are looking for will also be found in other people and shared experiences, as well as in times of solitude. Walk and try and let it unfold before you I think is the best advice anyone can give.
 
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To quote John Brierley: “… the basic counsel is to go on foot, alone. The extended period of silence will open up space to reflect on your life and its direction. Go alone and you may find that you are never alone and that may prove a pivotal turning point.”

I would love to hear the experiences of anyone else who has done the Camino solo in this way, how you managed day-after-day in quiet solitude.
My reading of the quote is not so much that you walk alone, but that even when you walk by yourself, you are not often alone. That would be quite different from what seems to be your expectation of being able to walk day on day in solitude.

That is not to say it isn't possible, but I have found it far easier to walk in quiet contemplation where the routes I have walked have been less busy. I find it takes more discipline when one gets within a few days of Santiago to let often quite exuberant behaviour happen around me and not to let it interrupt my train of thought. I don't think I have ever been completely successful, but it is worth trying.

Staying in private accommodation will help, I think, but at the risk of being isolated from other pilgrims. Even if you aren't seeking out the company of others, I find there is always some pleasure in walking with someone for a little while, or chatting if you have stopped at the same bar, cafe or some other rest stop.

My other observation is that you will still find it necessary to eat, drink and sleep, which will require some engagement with locals along the way. Here again, you might manage to make these less intrusive, but they are going to be daily events that have to be managed alongside any desire you have for solitude.
 
I was with a friend on the CP coastal this fall but each day we walked separately. I only walked with other pilgrims a few times and that was after Vigo. We saw very few pilgrims before then and then it was just a Bom caminho in passing. You’ll have plenty of alone time. If you’re feeling a little lonely there are usually opportunities to chat at cafes along the route and the first bar when you get to the popular stopping towns. It is really special to talk to people who are walking the same route, same weather, etc. No one else will understand so well!
 
On both Caminos I started walking alone and ended walking with family. Private accommodations make one's choice to be alone less difficult to keep. While shared accommodations lend themselves to more opportunities for shared relationships. While I enjoy the solitude, my head may not be the best place to spend a lot of time alone. Basically, I start a Camino to find myself and end up finding others.
 
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This past spring I walked my first Camino solo and stayed in hotels, taking the Norte and Primitivo routes. I stayed in hotels not just because I enjoy solitude, but also because I know I don't sleep well sharing a room with others. I chose these routes also partly because they are less traveled and I thought they would provide the solitude I was looking for. For the first week or so, I walked entirely alone, barely spoke to more than a few pilgrims, maybe from shyness, maybe because I was staying in hotels, but also because I really wanted to walk in solitude and I enjoyed it.

By the end of the first week, in my solitude, I started to question whether this was all I wanted from my Camino, and whether I should try to start talking with others. And then one morning after 2-3 hours of walking, I heard footsteps behind me and slowed my pace a bit and started chatting with a Frenchman, we stopped for cafe con leche an hour later, and walked most of that day together - and then off and on for many days we would find each other and end up walking some portion of the route together. The next day, as I was passing a German couple, the wife started chatting with me, we walked most of the rest of that long day together, and then again on other days we would find each other for some portion of the route or for dinner. And over the next 4 weeks I met several others, relationships would form and we would walk together. Not every day, not the entire day, but some hours on most of the 40 plus days of walking. I enjoyed dinners with most of them, but also enjoyed eating alone. While walking with others, I felt I had less time to really take in the scenery, l stopped less often to take pictures, I remembered less of the route, but I also made many friends, many of whom I am still in contact with, others I never saw again but enjoyed talking with them.

In the final week as I approached Santiago, most of the pilgrims I had spent time with were either 1-2 days behind me or a day or so ahead of me, and I remember having a long think about entering Santiago alone. The idea of not being able to share the moment with my new friends made me feel just a bit sad, maybe more rueful then sad, and I realized how much I enjoyed sharing at least some of my day with others. And then magically (there's always that Camino magic!), a few days out from Santiago, the Frenchman who I thought was 2-3 days behind me, reappeared across the street! We walked together most of the next few days and entered Santiago together, and 3 other groups of people I thought were behind me also ended up entering Santiago later that same afternoon. We had stayed in touch with WhatsApp and I waited for them to enter the plaza to the sound of bagpipes, all of us in tears. And the German couple after reaching Santiago several days after I did, took the bus to Cee and we met up again in Finisterre.

I had begun my Camino with the intent to walk each day happy and with gratitude, with compassion for others and myself, and to just be kind. A six week practice of Santosha (in yogic philosophy, "contentment" or "satisfaction") that I hoped would create an inner vibration of experiencing the happiness of contentment. I thought I needed to do walk my Camino in solitude to find it, but
I am so happy for the friendships I made and grateful for the Camino magic to reconnect. So I guess I would say it's great to intend to walk your Camino in solitude to find what you are seeking, but also great to be open to what you find along the way, because that may also help you find what you are seeking.
 
Hi GlennJ
I am also doing my first solo Camino in April
Really looking forward to it but a little apprehensive at the same time
Sure there will be others to help along the way
 
@GlennJ , I started my first Camino hoping for/ anticipating walking in solitude. The Camino had other plans for me.
Before I even started on my very first morning a Dutch lady introduced herself to me at breakfast in the hotel. She was a professional camino guide doing a research trip. Wonderful woman, we saw each other several times along the way.
On Day 2 I met a Portuguese couple during a break. The evening of day 3 we celebrated the wife's 50th birthday, along with the Dutch lady above. The next evening I assisted a German pair - father and daughter. Wonderful people. And so it went on. I spent far more time walking with people then I did alone.
Ten of us walked the last few kilometres into Santiago together and I have never been happier with not being alone.

On my second camino I experienced both company and Solitude, much as I enjoyed my first camino I think the second was better. But then it was the Primitivo, so more time was spent purely in the countryside (which I love) so I'm kind of biased. But because I took the Verde I split with my group in Lugo and ended up walking into Santiago alone. My first camino was superior in that respect.

I've done two weeks of the Jakobsweg (Camino) here in Germany; in that entire time during the day I saw three hikers - two of whom were going in the opposite direction - and probably eight or 10 cyclists. Every evening was spent alone, but surrounded by others, in restaurants & hotels. Once a completely empty hostel - no staff, just me and my thoughts.

In the evenings I wrote here on the forum on all three occasions; on most days I spoke briefly to my son; and listened to music.

All were wonderful experiences, but in hindsight I think I enjoyed my time in Spain with others more than my time alone.

As others have said - be open to the Camino. It won't let you down.
 
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I did the same thing last year on the CP (Central). It was very much what I needed. I did miss the Camino Family aspect of things, but as we all say, the Camino provided. I met the people I was supposed to and had the conversations I needed.

I HIGHLY recommend staying at the Monastery on the Spiritual Variant. It was beautiful. And the walk out of it is probably one of the most beautiful areas I've seen on any of my caminos.
 
I did the same thing last year on the CP (Central). It was very much what I needed. I did miss the Camino Family aspect of things, but as we all say, the Camino provided. I met the people I was supposed to and had the conversations I needed.

I HIGHLY recommend staying at the Monastery on the Spiritual Variant. It was beautiful. And the walk out of it is probably one of the most beautiful areas I've seen on any of my caminos.
I always loved being alone on Camino. The word implies and is generally understood as being the absence of others. i.e. humans. I always had company. the birds in the air. rabbits, hares, little lizards. At night I had the stars, my thoughts, occasionally a sense of Presence , the wind. I could talk to my Ancestors, feel my loved ones in my heart, watch the magic of dawn.
These things would have been obscured by the chatter of others, which I do not need. Being 65 and a senior when I started probably helped:)

Vaya

con Dios

Samarkand.
 
I have done four complete solo Caminos on the Francés. The last two I slept in private accommodations. I am still in contact with people I met on the first one in 2016 as well as the most recent one last June. I met, talked and walked with people on and off everyday on each Camino. Notwithstanding the Forum's general antipathy towards the "crowded" Francés, as a practical matter it is only as crowded as you want it to be. The extent of social interaction is totally up to you. My walks have generally been late May to July, although I had one partial walk Leon to Santiago in late August into September in addition to the five complete walks on the Francés. Except for post-Sarria, I have had many hours of walking with no one in sight either in front or behind me. I personally don't need that kind of solitude, but it's there if you want it. Solitude is available on the Francés (and Portuguese), although more solitude on the assorted Camino de Obscuros--more solitude but less of everything else.
 
The one from Galicia (the round) and the one from Castilla & Leon. Individually numbered and made by the same people that make the ones you see on your walk.
I’ve walked alone mostly, The Beloved has joined me on various ventures.
I don’t perceive a necessity to stay in private accommodations in order to walk alone. I have slept in Fonda, Albergue, Mountain Huts and Refugios. I’ve slept in Church Porches, Inviernos, Barns and cattle sheds. I’ve even slept rolled under a bench in a busy bar. I’ll add Paradors and fine hotels to the list for completeness. I’ve never found that my opportunity for rest has interfered with or impeded my opportunities to interact with my gods. It’s sometimes in the very interaction with others that I find them. “Be welcome to the stranger for always he may be an angel”.
Buen Camino whatever path you choose
 
"and plan to stay in private accommodation, hoping the solitude will enable me to connect more deeply with my spiritual self and with God."

Ok, but just be careful as that solitude can easily descend into loneliness ... we are tribal creatures and one of the great joys on Camino is meeting our global tribe, that flow and ebb of interaction. It does our heart good.

Almost everyone seems to think that the best way to 'encounter' is to sit cross-legged in silence on a hill or under a tree somewhere pretty but this is not so.
The best way to learn to be still, truly still and connected, is to go to a big shopping mall or train station when it is busy and sit on a bench. Sit, but upright and awake, aware, like a resting dancer, lower the eyelids to almost fully closed and just relax into it - the swirling sounds of existence ... if you surrender something utterly extraordinary happens - you will enter the real solitude, one that is energised, full, rich, like being immersed in the ocean of life, of which you are a part .. and never again will this hubbub of being irritate you or get in your way to achieving this.

As Paul said "we live and move and breathe and have our being within God" - within .... it isn't a 'separate thing over there' - we swim within, we are always already there, we just need to wake up to that we are.
 
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Ok, but just be careful as that solitude can easily descend into loneliness ... we are tribal creatures and one of the great joys on Camino is meeting our global tribe, that flow and ebb of interaction. It does our heart good.
My personal preference leans towards very quiet routes or the busier routes in the quietest of seasons. Not unknown for me to walk four or five days on the trot sleeping in albergues alone and not encounter another pilgrim. The usual sign that I am pushing the solitude thing to its limit is when I start talking to my feet and knees as if they were separate beings. Time to find another human being to chat with!
 
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This past spring I walked my first Camino solo and stayed in hotels, taking the Norte and Primitivo routes. I stayed in hotels not just because I enjoy solitude, but also because I know I don't sleep well sharing a room with others. I chose these routes also partly because they are less traveled and I thought they would provide the solitude I was looking for. For the first week or so, I walked entirely alone, barely spoke to more than a few pilgrims, maybe from shyness, maybe because I was staying in hotels, but also because I really wanted to walk in solitude and I enjoyed it.

By the end of the first week, in my solitude, I started to question whether this was all I wanted from my Camino, and whether I should try to start talking with others. And then one morning after 2-3 hours of walking, I heard footsteps behind me and slowed my pace a bit and started chatting with a Frenchman, we stopped for cafe con leche an hour later, and walked most of that day together - and then off and on for many days we would find each other and end up walking some portion of the route together. The next day, as I was passing a German couple, the wife started chatting with me, we walked most of the rest of that long day together, and then again on other days we would find each other for some portion of the route or for dinner. And over the next 4 weeks I met several others, relationships would form and we would walk together. Not every day, not the entire day, but some hours on most of the 40 plus days of walking. I enjoyed dinners with most of them, but also enjoyed eating alone. While walking with others, I felt I had less time to really take in the scenery, l stopped less often to take pictures, I remembered less of the route, but I also made many friends, many of whom I am still in contact with, others I never saw again but enjoyed talking with them.

In the final week as I approached Santiago, most of the pilgrims I had spent time with were either 1-2 days behind me or a day or so ahead of me, and I remember having a long think about entering Santiago alone. The idea of not being able to share the moment with my new friends made me feel just a bit sad, maybe more rueful then sad, and I realized how much I enjoyed sharing at least some of my day with others. And then magically (there's always that Camino magic!), a few days out from Santiago, the Frenchman who I thought was 2-3 days behind me, reappeared across the street! We walked together most of the next few days and entered Santiago together, and 3 other groups of people I thought were behind me also ended up entering Santiago later that same afternoon. We had stayed in touch with WhatsApp and I waited for them to enter the plaza to the sound of bagpipes, all of us in tears. And the German couple after reaching Santiago several days after I did, took the bus to Cee and we met up again in Finisterre.

I had begun my Camino with the intent to walk each day happy and with gratitude, with compassion for others and myself, and to just be kind. A six week practice of Santosha (in yogic philosophy, "contentment" or "satisfaction") that I hoped would create an inner vibration of experiencing the happiness of contentment. I thought I needed to do walk my Camino in solitude to find it, but
I am so happy for the friendships I made and grateful for the Camino magic to reconnect. So I guess I would say it's great to intend to walk your Camino in solitude to find what you are seeking, but also great to be open to what you find along the way, because that may also help you find what you are seeking.
Great reflection of "The Way"......!!!
 
just be careful as that solitude can easily descend into loneliness .
@David, this is a sensible caution. While I mightn't think the rest of your post here was terribly helpful in the context of the original question posed by the OP, I do think that if you are walking in some sense as a hermit, and avoiding contact with others, you need to have thought this through.

When I faced this prospect the first time I walked one of the St Olavs Ways, it was important to me to know how to identify this was happening, and what I was then going to do about it. These are not routes with many large shopping centres or railway stations, so sitting quietly in one of those wasn't a real option. When one is only going to cross paths with one or two pilgrims every week, it became clear to me that I couldn't shun the chance encounters, and that contacts with hosts and other locals were also precious opportunities. It was enough for me to use the long periods of walking alone to pursue more solitary contemplations.
 
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I *walked* the Primitivo alone, as I vastly preferred not trying to walk with another. I also prefer to not share my pain and suffering, and there was a lot of both. But....

...I talked to God along the way (practicing my Spanish, asking for help, and thanking Him for the ability to keep going).

He generally replied to me in the presence and help of other people, and I in turn helped them...at meals, in albergues, or at resting points.

When a group I had met briefly on day 1 greeted me with joy on day 6, I realized that I wasn't alone. 😀

Walk as you will, but as others have said, be open to what comes your way.
 
Perhaps that movie was a perceptive reflection of what people experience on the Camino!
Perhaps it is. But I can't say that it rang all that many bells with my own experience of the Caminos. Probably because I am a solitary by nature and the dominant "Camino family" motif throughout the movie had no particular appeal for me.
 
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On the 500+km from Sundsvall to Trondheim I met precisely 3 other pilgrims. Two of whom were a couple walking together. It is definitely not the Camino Frances!
My first walk was crowded by comparison. Two others in the first week, a family of four and a couple of women sometimes walking together over the next couple of weeks, some of whom I say again in the final week, then a group organised by the Norse church led by one of the Pilgrim Priests, and finally a couple of priests walking together. I can only recall five nights where I stayed in a place with other pilgrims.
 
Perhaps it is. But I can't say that it rang all that many bells with my own experience of the Caminos. Probably because I am a solitary by nature and the dominant "Camino family" motif throughout the movie had no particular appeal for me.
Likewise. The 'camino family' discussion doesn't appeal to me. I might make friends with perhaps one or two others at most. I don't rely on it, and worry that those who don't find they become part of one will think they are in some way unusual and missing out on some critical aspect of the pilgrimage. That, in my opinion, would not be a good result.
 
My first walk was crowded by comparison.
I think you walked later in the year. I walked during May when the temperatures were still low and most of the pilgrim accommodation was still closed. So chilly at times that I walked very long days simply because there was nowhere open to shelter and my options were to keep walking, to pitch my tent, or to freeze! I ended up walking from the Swedish border to the sea in a single day because a combination of a national holiday and a hospitality industry strike meant that there was literally nowhere indoors for me to stop! :)
 
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I recall on my first Camino coming across a pilgrim walking with his arms folded across his chest. I sensed that he did not wish to talk so I said "Buen Camino" and moved on, later learning that this gesture meant "en silencio". I am a loner by nature, happy to walk quietly by myself, or to chat with other pilgrims as the opportunity arises. As the Beatles said, "let it be". Buen Camino. 🚶‍♂️
 
On my last Camino (VdlP) I spent many days walking alone and sleeping alone. I loved it. It felt easy and the right thing.
But on other Caminos I have spent more time with other pilgrims - and that was perfect too.
‘Spiritual stuff’ happened on all Caminos - alone or with others.
You have set an intention - to connect more deeply with my spiritual self and with God.
Perhaps you can consider allowing the Camino and God to show you how this will happen - alone, with others, in a church, beside a tree…
Blessings and Buen Camino.
 
Wow, I’m grateful for all your replies. There’s so much wisdom in all of them. Thank you.

Indeed, I think the main thing for me is to be open to whatever comes my way and to accept them all as part of the spiritual experience of the Camino. My intentions may indeed find fulfillment in whoever and whatever I encounter along the way, finding God in everything, and this includes any inconveniences, bad weather, and what-have-you.
 
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I have found the same experience @Rita Flower .

I've come to the conclusion that it's hard to 'plan' these things.
So setting out with the right 'intention' makes sense.

It's hard to find the right balance.
I usually set out wit the aim of walking alone, staying along, being alone.
But it can get very lonely.

What seems to happen, is that my Camino unfolds in the 'right way' somehow.

That often means lots of walking time alone, a few nights alone, a few days walking with others, a few night staying with others............. It just seems to 'happen' in the right mix for me. It can't be 'planned'.

What I find essential though, is to walk with an open heart, an open mind and to take my time and just let things happen.
 
Wow, I’m grateful for all your replies. There’s so much wisdom in all of them. Thank you.

Indeed, I think the main thing for me is to be open to whatever comes my way and to accept them all as part of the spiritual experience of the Camino. My intentions may indeed find fulfillment in whoever and whatever I encounter along the way, finding God in everything, and this includes any inconveniences, bad weather, and what-have-you.

Yep! It sounds corny. But whatever happens, I look for the good in it, the lesson in it. And there always seems to be a measure of both if you are open to it and look for it. ;)
 
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I will be doing my first Camino solo from Porto (Coastal/Litoral + Spiritual Variente) next April and plan to stay in private accommodation, hoping the solitude will enable me to connect more deeply with my spiritual self and with God.

To quote John Brierley: “… the basic counsel is to go on foot, alone. The extended period of silence will open up space to reflect on your life and its direction. Go alone and you may find that you are never alone and that may prove a pivotal turning point.”

I would love to hear the experiences of anyone else who has done the Camino solo in this way, how you managed day-after-day in quiet solitude.
You are never alone on the Camino unless you want to be. I traveled solo from SJPP to Santiago (French Way) and mostly stayed in private rooms after the first week. What I found is that you end up seeing the same people day after day and town after town because they were traveling at you speed and comfort level. If you want company and you open yourself up to conversation, you will make new friends and often find dinner companions.
 
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You are never alone on the Camino unless you want to be.
That's a very sweeping generalization. I have walked a number of Caminos where I have gone for several days without seeing another pilgrim. And even days earlier this year on the Camino Frances when I saw only one or two all day and spent my nights as the only pilgrim in albergues. Not all routes are like peak season on the Frances.
 

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